Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, due to the short pontificate so far, consists mainly of two encyclical letters on love (2005) and hope (2007), apostolic documents and various speeches and interviews. As Pope, Benedict XVI has wider responsibilities than previously. Therefore, it remains to be seen how the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI will develop theologically.

The Theology of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger underwent developments over the years, many of which were characterized by his leadership position in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is entrusted with preserving the Catholic faith in its entirety. His theology originated in the view that God speaks to us through the Church today and not just through the Bible. The Bible is not a natural science textbook, but rather it is the essential testimonial of God’s revelation. One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Thus Scripture would not wish to inform us about how the different species of plant life gradually appeared or how the sun and the moon and the stars were established. Its purpose ultimately would be to say one thing: God created the world. [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "In the Beginning...": A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall " (Michigan:Wm.B. Erdmans Publishing Co.. 1995), P. 5.] The world is not a chaos of mutually opposed forces; nor is it the dwelling of demonic powers from which human beings must protect themselves. Rather, all of this comes from one power, from God's eternal Reason, which became -- in the word --the power of creation. All of this comes from the same Word of God that we meet in the act of faith. The Bible was written to help us understand God's eternal Reason. The Holy Scripture in its entirety was not written from beginning to end like a novel or a textbook. It is, rather, the echo of God's history with his people. The theme of creation is not set down once for all in one place; rather, it accompanies Israel throughout its history, and, indeed, the whole Old Testament is a journeying with the Word of God. In this respect, the Old and New Testament belong together. Thus every individual part derives its meaning from the whole, and the whole derives its meaning from Christ. [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "In the Beginning...": A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall " (Michigan:Wm.B. Erdmans Publishing Co.. 1995), P.9.] The Bible is constantly readapting its images to a continually developing way of thinking. In this way, a gradual and interactive process reveals something deeper and greater. We Christians do not read the Old Testament for its own sake but always with Christ and through Christ.

The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessors, intends to present and the Word of God to his time. As Pope and Bishop of Rome he explains the message of Jesus Christ, utilizing in part the array of theological analysis, methods and axioms, for which he is well known. To some this raises the question of the relation of Pope - theologian and of the distinction of papal teaching and theological point of view. Nevertheless, official theological statements such encyclical letters constitute part of the theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

God is Love

In his first Encyclical as Pope, Deus Caritas Est [ENCYCLICAL LETTER, DEUS CARITAS EST OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS PRIESTS AND DEACONS MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL ON CHRISTIAN LOVE, Vatican 2005] Benedict XVI describes God as love, and talks about the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others through acts of charity.

His letter has two parts. A theological speculative part, in which he describes "the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love". The second part deals with practical aspects, and calls the world to new energy and commitment in its response to God's love. [Deus Catitas Est, 2]

Benedict writes about love of God, and considers this important and significant, because we live in a time in which "the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence":

"We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life" (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might" (6:4-5). Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere "command"; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us." [Deus Caritas Est, 1]

Benedict develops a positive view of sex and Eros in his first encyclical, which finally does away with the traditional Victorian view of the human body. Love between men and women is a gift of God, which should not be exploited: "Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed." [Deus Caritas Est, 5] ... but ... "Eros, reduced to pure "sex", has become a commodity, a mere "thing" to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great "yes" to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will." [Deus Caritas Est, 6]

By admitting negative Church attitudes towards the human body he sets a new tone. By referring to the erotic Song of Songs, Benedict XVI stresses caring for the other in a most sensual way and thus openly transcends the traditional Catholic procreation view of sex. Unlike previous writings of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the document of Pope Benedict does not contain condemnations, indicating a more pastoral approach of the new Pope. At the same time, his discussion of love is implicitly within the confines of conjugal relationships.

Faith-based hope

In his second letter, Spe Salvi [Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe salvi Vatican November 30, 2007] Benedict XVI explains the concept of faith-based hope in the New Testament and the early Church. Benedict suggests a redirection of often short-sighted hopes. Real hope must be based on faith in God. God is love. Christ, the most manifest expression of God's love, dies on the cross not to end slavery, miseries or other temporal problems.

Benedict argues in his letter against two mistaken notions of hope: 1.) Christians who may have focused their hopes too much on their own eternal salvation, and 2.) those who have placed their hope exclusively on science, rationality, freedom and justice for all, thus excluding any notion of God and eternity. Christians find lasting hope by finding their loving God, and this has real consequences for everyday life:

"We have raised the question: can our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just "informative" but "performative" — that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses? Before attempting to answer the question, let us return once more to the early Church. It is not difficult to realize that the experience of the African slave-girl Bakhita was also the experience of many in the period of nascent Christianity who were beaten and condemned to slavery. Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar-Kochba. Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within." [ Spe Salvi, 4]

Benedict refers to St. Paul, who wrote from prison "Paul is sending the slave back to the master from whom he had fled, not ordering but asking: "I appeal to you for my child ... whose father I have become in my imprisonment ... I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart ... perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" ..." (Philem 10-16). [Spe Salvi, 4] He refers then to the Letter to the Hebrews, which says that Christians here on earth do not have a permanent homeland, but seek one which lies in the future (cf. Heb 11:13-16; Phil 3:20).

To Benedict, this does not mean for one moment that they lived only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage. [Spe Salvi 4] A Christian has a present and future, because of the hope for Jesus Christ, which is life changing. [Spe Salvi, 2] All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action. [Spe Salvi 35] This hope gives a realistic perspective to understanding suffering and helping others: We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. [It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.

Benedict believes that not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering are we healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love. [Spe Salvi 37]

The Eucharist and the Church

In a special letter on the Eucharist and the Church, Benedict describes the Eucharist, causal principle of the Church. [Sacramentum Caritatis: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission (February 22, 2007)]

"Through the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus draws the faithful into his "hour;" he shows us the bond that he willed to establish between himself and us, between his own person and the Church" [Sacramentum Caritatis, 14]

He opines that the Church was founded by Christ in the sacrifice of the Cross. At the same time, he describes the Church as his Bride and his body. This concept, the Church as the mystical body of Christ, goes back to St. Paul and has been subject to many conversations by The Fathers of the Church but also more recently at Vatican II.

"A contemplative gaze "upon him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ's sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church. The Church "draws her life from the Eucharist" (31). Since the Eucharist makes present Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that "there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's very origins" [Sacramentum Caritatis, 32] . The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which "makes" the Eucharist, the [Sacramentum Caritatis, 33] primary causality is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church's ability to "make" the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ's self-gift to her."

What does this mean? According to Benedict, the Eucharist which is union with Christ has a profound impact on our social relations. Because "union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own." [Sacramentum Caritatis, 241]

"The relationship between the Eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made of Jews and pagans one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them (cf. Eph 2:14). Only this constant impulse towards reconciliation enables us to partake worthily of the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Mt 5:23-24)." [Sacramentum Caritatis, 242]

Theology, science and the dialogue with other cultures

In an address to the faculty at the University of Regensburg, Germany, [Quoted as Benedict XVI, Meeting with the representatives of science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg (September 12, 2006), Vatican, 2006. source:] Benedict discussed the preconditions for an effective dialogue with Islam and other cultures. This requires a review of theology and science. [This speech contained a negative citation of an medieval emperor on Islam, which weeks later caused some controversies and clarifications from the Vatican] The Pope considers the modern concept of science too narrow in the long run, because it allows the determination of "certainty" only from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements. "Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of science". [Benedict XVI, Meeting with the representatives of science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg (September 12, 2006)] .

"This limited view of scientific method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding.

"The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby" [Benedict XVI, Meeting with the representatives of science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg (September 12, 2006)] Benedict acknowledges "unreservedly" the many positive aspects of modern science, and considers the quest for truth as essential to the Christian spirit, but he favours a broadening our narrow concept of reason and its application to include philosophical and theological experiences, not only as an aim in itself but so we may enter as a culture the dialogue with the other religions and cultures from a broader perspective:

"Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures." [Benedict XVI, Meeting with the representatives of science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg (September 12, 2006)]

This objective of Pope Benedict XVI has so far not been widely reviewed.

Theology of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Congregation of Faith

Ratzinger became known as a theologian through his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he headed until his election to the Papacy. It has been frequently overlooked that he opened up his congregation to theological and historical research, by providing greater access to the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On January 22, 1998 the Ratzinger congregation opened all Inquisition archives up to the death of Pope Leo XIII.

In absence of a large body of papal teachings of Benedict XVI, the Ratzinger theology is often cited. While there are likely to be many similarities between the teachings of Benedict and Ratzinger, the theology of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been somewhat unique because of his "watchdog" office, which required him to address a larger variety of issues. This differentiated Ratzinger from virtually all other bishops or cardinals, except of course, the Holy Father himself. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was much on his own, since he had only a small staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Young Ratzinger was something of a "rebel", who early on discarded the Thomism of his professors and much of the dominant traditional school theology. He viewed the early proposals for Vatican II, "as narrow, stiff and insufficiently pastoral." [ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.101] Only in the seventies, Ratzinger felt that he had finally developed his own theological view. , [ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.176]

Karl Rahner's question

This "own theological view" has raised questions by critical liberal theologians, like Hans Küng and Karl Rahner.
** It would be important for him to distinguish between Ratzinger the theologian, with his justified and maybe at times problematical positions, and Ratzinger the Prefect of the Congregation of Faith. Every Roman prelate has a right to his own theological views. But he should not use his Office to force them on others. This difference is important but of course also very difficult to carry out in practice. [Karl Rahner, Bekenntnisse, Rückblick auf 80 Jahre, Herold, Munich, 1984, p.40-41]

Karl Rahner raises these issues. Does the Prefect defend "only" the official Magisterium, Church teachings within the framework of Canon Law? If so, he is clearly speaking for the Church and not on his own. Does he in so-called gray areas of theology, questiones disputatae, where the Magisterium has not ruled, impose his theological view on others?

Ratzinger's own theological view began with a open rebellion against powerful established thomist theology.

Divine Revelation

It all began with the "drama of my habilitation", as he called it, [ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.77] a seemingly unimportant postdoctoral degree on Bonaventura, which he was almost denied, because of serious reservations of some conservative professors with his interpretation of divine revelation. Ratzinger held, that God reveals and revealed himself in history and throughout history and not just once to the authors of the Bible. [ Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.84] He further held, that the static bible-based concept of divine revelation was nonexistent in the thirteenth century. Ratzinger contradicted traditional Catholic theology, which led to a bitter fight. Ratzinger passed after hours of heated debate, just barely. But he had established himself as an independent thinker.

His theology on revelation was discussed during Second Vatican Council. In Rome he continued the view, that revelation, meaning God communicates with us, is always more than can be expressed in purely human words. God’s revelation is not a big cold stone fallen from heaven many years ago, a stone which only needs to be dissected and analyzed. God has a living message to us.

"I refer to what might be called Christian positivism. Christian belief is not merely concerned with the eternal, the “totally other”, … on the contrary, it is much more concerned with God in history, with God as man. By thus seeming to bridge the gulf between eternal and temporal, between visible and invisible, by making us meet God as man, the eternal as the temporal, as one of us, it knows itself as revelation" [ Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Seabury, New York, 1979, p. 27]

Role of the Church

To comprehend God's ongoing revelation, is why the Church is important at all ages. [ Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.129] Benedict's view of the church, ecclesiology places much emphasis on the Catholic Church and its institutions, as the instrument by which God's message manifests itself on Earth: a view of the Church's universal worldwide role which tends to resist local pressure to submit to external social trends in specific countries or cultures.

As such, like all his predecessors, he does not view the search for moral truth as a dialectic and incremental process, arguing that essential matters of faith and morals are universally true and therefore must be determined at the universal level: "the universal church ... takes precedence, ontologically and temporally, over the individual local churches." Accordingly, too , he was often seen as a key player in the centralization of the hierarchy under John Paul II.

Role of Liturgy

The ongoing revelation of God is also the reason, why Pope Benedict XVI puts so much emphasis on sacred liturgy, and why he abhorred often tasteless experiments with it. To him the crisis of the Church is a crisis of the liturgy, in which clergy and community too often backslap and celebrate each other and themselves, almost as if God did not exist.

** "There is more and more a tendency today, to resolve the Christian religion completely into brotherly love, fellowship, and not to admit any direct love of God or adoration of God…. It is not difficult to see, … how this at first sight very attractive conception fails to grasp not only the substance of Christianity but also that of true humanity. Brotherly love that aimed at self-sufficiency would become for this very reason the extreme egoism of self-assertion." [ Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Seabury, New York, 1979, p. 219]

To Pope Benedict XVI, liturgy means openness to God, community of faith, worldwide unity with the Church and its history; it means “celebrating the mystery of the living Christ”. [ Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Erinnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.174] To get there, Ratzinger calls for an almost revolution like liturgical movement to rekindle the spirit of Vatican II. Not surprisingly at one of the first masses of his pontificate he urged Catholics to show a greater devotion to the "Eucharistic Jesus."

Continuation of Vatican II

"None of the Council Fathers saw an end of the Middle Ages or a revolution. It was viewed as a continuation of the reforms initiated by Pius X and systematically but gently continued by Pius XII." [ Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger, Aus meinem Leben, Eri=nnerungen, DVA, 1997, p.104]

This Ratzinger quote on the liturgy reform of the council is symbolic for his interpretation of Vatican II. He has spoken only positively about the Vatican II council, but differentiated between the council and a spirit of the council, which has nothing in common with its texts and resolutions. As noted above, believes that essential elements of the Council, such as the spirit if liturgy still need to materialize and has shown no evidence that he intends to reverse or limit the decisions of that council. He has, however, stated in books and interviews that Vatican II did not represent a radical break; a new age, but a more pastoral reformulation of old truths earlier doctrine, but applied the teachings of the Apostles and church fathers to the contemporary world. Indeed the council documents quoted 205 times the allegedly conservative Pope Pius XII more than any other person. [ Georges Huber, Pius XII, Vorläufer des 2.vatikanischen Konzils, in Konstantin, Prinz von Bayern, Pius XII, Stein am Rhein, 1980, p. 407 ] Benedict has also spoken out against some post-conciliar innovations, especially liturgical novelties, which forget their purpose, and he continues to remind the faithful that the Council did not entirely do away with the former rite and many of its noble features.

In the pre-conclave mass to the assembled cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica, he warned, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires." This view is in part his interpretation of Vatican II..

Other theological opinions

Pope John Paul II and Benedict have strongly opposed liberation theology as a political movement. Benedict has acknowledged the good aspects of charismatic Catholicism while at the same time "providing some cautions." [ Charismatic Renewal, Ecclesiastical Acknowledgementd]

Benedict is a theologian in a modern orthodox (conservative) vein. His theology aims at a synthesis of Thomism, philosophical personalism Fact|date=January 2008 (with such proponents as Martin Buber, John Paul II — tempered however by phenomenology, and, more recently, Leon Kass) and the 'Nouvelle Théologie' of Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. This is a sharp contrast with the school of thought, until recently ascendant in the theological academy of Europe and the United States, represented by Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, and Edward Schillebeeckx. Fact|date=January 2008

Dialogue with other faiths

Cardinal Ratzinger's approach to ecumenical dialogue was fundamentally centered on his theology of covenant, as described in his work "Many Religions - One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World" (1999). [ Pope Benedict XVI's Theology of Covenant] In 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document entitled Dominus Iesus, which created a lot of controversy. Some religious groups took offense to the document because it allegedly stated that "only in the Catholic Church is the eternal salvation." [ April 18, 2005. Nazi link may dog favourite ] However this statement appears nowhere in the document. The document condemned "relativistic theories" of religious pluralism and described other faiths as "gravely deficient" in the means of salvation. The document was primarily aimed at reining in liberal Catholic theologians like Jacques Dupuis, who argued that other religions could contain God-given means of salvation not found in the Church of Christ, but it offended many religious leaders. Jewish religious leaders boycotted several interfaith meetings in protest. [ April 24, 2005. Crossing Cardinal Nein]

Other Christian Denominations

A remarkable but unappreciated aspect of "Dominus Iesus" can be found in [ the official Latin text] , in which the famous "filioque" clause ("and the Son") is quietly omitted. The changed Latin sentence reads "Et in Spiritum Sanctum (...), qui ex Patre procedit" ("and in the Holy Spirit (...), who proceeds from the Father") instead of "qui ex Patre Filioque procedit" ("who proceeds from the Father and the Son"). The filioque clause has been a source of conflict between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church for about one thousand years. Leaving it out may be seen as Ratzinger's attempt to reach a hand across the theological/historical chasm separating Eastern and Western Churches.

Ratzinger's election as pope was met with enthusiasm from many prominent Anglicans. The Archbishop of Canterbury described Ratzinger as "a theologian of great stature, who has written some profound reflections on the nature of God and the church". Scotland's senior Anglican Bishop Idris Jones also had a positive view of the new pope and stated "I offer the warmest of welcomes to the new Pope...under his leadership the church will continue to work for the poor and underprivileged in the world." However, a council of Bishops rejected the Popes view of Catholic authority which was mirrored by Benedict's refusual to alter the Catholic position on refusing to recognise the Church of England.


Even before becoming pope, Benedict advocated a "special relationship" between the Roman Church and the Jewish faith. Some Jewish organisations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Union of Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, believe Ratzinger was responsible for Pope John Paul II's attempts to improve Jewish-Catholic ties. However, Pope Benedict did create some controversy when he said that the Church is waiting for the moment when Jews will “say yes to Christ.” He went on to say, "We believe that. The fact remains, however, that our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the Messiah of Israel.”


Pope Benedict XVI has called for Christians "to open their arms and hearts" to Muslim immigrants and "to dialogue" with them on religious issues. The Pope also calls on peaceful talk with Muslims and was against the War in Iraq and is gravely concerned about events around the Middle East.


Though his advent was congratulated by Buddhist leaders around the world,ref|phayulref|chosun critics remembered that in March 1997 Cardinal Ratzinger predicted that Buddhism would, over the coming century, replace Marxism as the main "enemy" of the Catholic Church. Some also criticized him for calling Buddhism an "autoerotic spirituality" that offered "transcendence without imposing concrete religious obligations", though that might be a mistranslation from the French "auto-erotisme", which more properly translates to self-absorption, or narcissism [ April 19, 2005. Election of Cardinal Ratzinger as new Pope welcomed ] . [ April 20, 2005. His Holiness the Dalai Lama Greets New Pope] Also the quote did not address Buddhism as such, but rather about how Buddhism "appears" to those Europeans who are using it to obtain some type of self-satisfying spiritual experience. [ Dharma Forest April 20, 2005. Pope Benedict XVI's Buddhist Encounter ]

Past and present views on Social Issues

Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was a well-known and quite controversial figure inside and outside the Catholic Church. Ratzinger's own interpretation of his theology is of course not known or shared by everyone. To some he is a traditional conservative unwilling to bend to the times: To this view, Ratzinger's theology is based on his early works, staunch Catholicism and ancient Tradition. According to this often held view, Benedict has made clear that he intends to preserve the Church doctrine and not give in to modern pressures for change to fundamental dogma and teaching on such issues as birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. It is also noted, that the Pope has a strong opposition to moral relativism, which he sees as producing views ranging "from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth." [ April 18, 2005. Cardinal Ratzinger Spells It Out for You ] Benedict XVI's views appear to be similar to those of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in maintaining the traditional positions on birth control, abortion, and homosexuality and promoting Catholic social teaching. Benedict has criticized genetic manipulation and the cloning of human embryos. He has said that even "good goals" cannot justify such means. Benedict, in his most recent book,indicated that evolution, although more than a theory, was still not and as a scientific theory could not be definitively proven and that in any case, the creation and evolution of the universe and its matter could not comprehensively be explained by empirical, existential, logical methods of science- necessitating other disciplines like philosophy and theology to fill in where science could not be wholly applied or where questions were not solveable by, or in the realm of, the sciences.

Although teaching opposition to death penalty, he has stated that there may be among Catholics a "legitimate diversity of opinion" [ April 19, 2005. Pope Condemns Factory Farming: Benedict XVI Continues Tradition of Papal Concern for Animals. (See also John Berkman, "The Consumption of Animals and the Catholic Tradition," Logos 7:1, Winter 2004.)]

He has also defended the traditional Church position on the indissolubility of marriage and thus rejected that the divorced be allowed to remarry during their spouses' lifetime. In a 1994 letter to the bishops he said that those who do so are not in a state to receive communion. [ Michael Griffin, New Pope a Strong Critic of Modern War. Traditional Catholic Reflections ]

Ratzinger has maintained that the Catholic Church does not possess the authority to ordain women to the priestly sacramental ministry (the Vatican, and the Catholic Church by extension, have long held that this is shown by Jesus's choosing only men as apostles, saying this was the constant practice and consistent teaching of the Church).

During the 1980s, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he criticized liberation theologians and twice silenced proponent Leonardo Boff.

In "The Spirit of the Liturgy" in 2000, Ratzinger attacked Rock and Roll as "the expression of elemental passions" and described some rock concerts as becoming "a form of worship ... in opposition to Christian worship." However, he is a great lover of classical and folk music, and included much new music into his recent pastoral visit to Cologne.

While one needs to differentiate between pure theology and derived social teachings such as birth control and homosexuality, it is obvious, that, as with his predecssors, the often pointed positions of Benedict XVI are not without controversy

The Dignity and inclusion of Gays

For several decades, questions have been raised especially in the USA and Western Europe, regarding the access of Gays to Catholic services as a indication of their non-discrimination. The Church under Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger took the position based on the traditional Magisterium of the Catholic Church, that while confirming respect for individuals, and showing "great respect for these people who also suffer", gay services are not to be tolerated and that Church Facilities cannot be made available.

Homosexuality and LGBT Rights

LGBT rights advocates widely criticized his 1986 letter to the Bishops of the Church, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, in which he stated that "although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder." However, then Cardinal Ratzinger also said: "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs."

In a separate letter dated September 30, 1985, Ratzinger reprimanded Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen for his unorthodox views on women, homosexuals, and doctrinal issues, stating, "The Archdiocese should withdraw all support from any group, which does not unequivocally accept the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity." Archbishop Hunthausen was temporarily relieved of his authority. [ March 2000. Book Review: John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue ]

Same-sex Marriage and Gay Adoption

The Pontiff also holds the traditional Catholic views on same-sex marriage, in 2004 he said to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica "Above all, we must have great respect for these people who also suffer and who want to find their own way of correct living (also including those who wish to try to be gay and celibate). On the other hand, to create a legal form of a kind of homosexual marriage, in reality, does not help these people." The Pope later described gay marriage as "pseudo-matrimony" and declared that "The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man."

Benedict XVI is also against gay couples adopting children, he wrote a Vatican Paper concerned with the adoption of children into same-sex couples. "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."


In 1988 a debate within the Catholic Church over the use of condoms to prevent AIDS sparked controversy again. The Church in 1968 had already stated in Humanae Vitae that chemical and barrier methods of contraception went against Church teachings. The debate was over the different issue of whether or not condoms could be used, not as contraceptives, but as a means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. In 1987, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document suggesting that education on the use of condoms could be an acceptable part of an anti-AIDS program.

In response, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that such an approach "would result in at least the facilitation of evil" – not merely its toleration. For the full text of the letter, see: (See also Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility"). Critics argue that Ratzinger's approach would lead to increases in the frequency of HIV/AIDS infections, while many Catholics dispute this and emphasize the value of faithful relationships or chastity, as it is scientifically impossible to contract the disorder without having sex with an infected person, unless via some other means such as a blood transfusion or sharing a needle.

Abortion and politics

In the United States, during the 2004 presidential campaign, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that voters would be "cooperating in evil" if they voted for a political candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on legalized abortion or euthanasia. [ April 20, 2005. New Pope's Views on Turkey/EU Stir Unease in Ankara ] . He further stated, however, that voting for these candidates for other reasons of commensurate gravity in spite of their stand concerning abortion/euthanasia was justifiable in principle. Ratzinger generated further controversy by supporting the denial of Holy Communion to these politicians. He did add, however, that bishops should only withhold communion after meeting with, teaching and warning politicians first.

Treatment of animals

Although not a vegetarian, the new Pope has spoken about the exploitation of all beings, particularly of farmed animals. When he was asked about cruelty to animals in a 2002 interview, he said, "That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God's creatures... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible." Cardinal Ratzinger was echoing official church teachings laid out in the Catholic Catechism, which states clearly that “Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. . . . It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” [ April 19, 2005. Gay Catholics in Washington concerned with new pope ]

Politics and other issues

"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq," he said on a press conference in 2003. "To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'. [ October 2004. The “Social Vaccine”, December 13, 2002 Condom Lobby Drives AIDS Debate Besides Abstinence Success in Africa, February 24, 2005. Uganda's AIDS Decline Attributed to Deaths March 8, 2005. Faulty Conclusion On AIDS in Uganda ] According to CNN, Ratzinger has condemned Communism by calling the Soviet Union "a shame of our time", and unbridled capitalism by saying, "We must coordinate the free market with the sense of responsibility of one towards the other." [ March 20, 2004. John Paul II speech on Euthanasia.] He has repeatedly criticized the materialization of life and the "greed society".

In the spring of 2005 Pope Benedict opposed a referendum in Italy, which aimed at liberalising a restrictive law about artificial insemination and embryonic stem cell research. This was the first direct intervention in Italian politics since the collapse of the Democrazia Cristiana party. The most active person inside the Church was Cardinal Camillo Ruini, but Benedict XVI gave him clear support.

Particular controversy was stirred up by the Italian clergy's strategy of restraining Italians from voting. Since the referendum had been called on a summer weekend, turn out was expected to be low. Not voting would have helped invalidate the referendum, which needed to reach a quorum of 50% of voters, whereas voting "No" (i.e. to maintain the current legislation) might have helped reaching it, making the referendum valid and therefore actually helping the "Yes" advocates. Critics of this tactic argue that this misplaced non-voters into the "No" front, though the same could be said the other way around. It was also alleged that it hampered the secrecy of the vote.

Harry Potter books

On March 7, 2003, Ratzinger wrote a letter to congratulate German writer Gabriele KubyFact|date=July 2008 on her book, "Harry Potter; Gut oder böse?" ("Harry Potter; Good or evil?", ISBN 3-928929-43-7), about the literary phenomenon of Harry Potter, a popular series of books about a young student of magic. Kuby's book meant to prove that the Harry Potter books would "corrupt" the religious spirit of young generations and prove false the rumours that Pope John Paul II liked the series.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that " [it is a] very informed book [...] It is good that you, esteemed and dear Mrs. Kuby, enlighten the people about Harry Potter, because there are subtle seductions, that act unconsciously, deeply distorting Christianity in the soul, before it can properly grow".Fact|date=July 2008 Kuby later asked permission to make this judgement public, which was granted.Fact|date=July 2008

Galileo affair

In 1990 Ratzinger commented on the Galileo affair, and quoted philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying that the Church's verdict against Galileo had been "rational and just".cite news|publisher=BBC News|url=|title=Papal visit scuppered by scholars|date=2008-01-15] Two years later, in 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and officially conceded that the Earth was not stationary. In January 2008 Ratzinger cancelled a visit to La Sapienza University in Rome, following a protest letter signed by sixty-seven academics which said he condoned the 1633 trial and conviction of Galileo for heresy.


External links and references

* [ Continuing tradition of Papal concern for animals]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pope Benedict XVI — Benedict XVI Benedict XVI during a general audience in 2010 …   Wikipedia

  • Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy — The Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy arose from a lecture delivered on 12 September 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The pope had previously served as professor of theology at the university, and his… …   Wikipedia

  • Works of Pope Benedict XVI — These are the works written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, elected Pope Benedict XVI: As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (original titles) * JESUS VON NAZARETH, Erster Teil, Von der Taufe im Jordan bis zur Verklärung , Freiburg im Breisgau 2007, ISBN 3… …   Wikipedia

  • Coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI — The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI The coat …   Wikipedia

  • List of books by Pope Benedict XVI — List of books by Pope Benedict XVI* Introduction to Christianity (1968) * God of Jesus Christ (1978) * Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church s Marian Belief (1983) * Schauen auf den Durchbohrten: Versuche zu einer spirituellen Christologie The …   Wikipedia

  • Pope Benedict XI — Benedict XI Papacy began 22 October 1303 Papacy ended 7 July 1304 Predecessor Boniface VIII …   Wikipedia

  • Pope Benedict XV — Infobox Pope English name=Benedict XV birth name=Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa term start=September 3 1914 term end=January 22 1922 predecessor=Pius X successor=Pius XI birth date=November 22 1854 birthplace=Genoa, Italy dead=dead… …   Wikipedia

  • Pope Gregory XVI — Gregory XVI Papacy began 2 February 1831 Papacy ended 1 June 1846 ( 1000000000000001500000015 years, 10000000000000119000000119 days) …   Wikipedia

  • Theology of Pope Pius XII — The theology of Pope Pius XII comprised fourtyone encyclicals, and almost 1000 messages, and speeches during his long pontificate. The encyclicals Mystici Corporis and Mediator Dei clarified membership and participation in the Church. The… …   Wikipedia

  • Benedict XVI — ▪ pope Introduction original name  Joseph Alois Ratzinger  born April 16, 1927, Marktl am Inn, Ger.       the bishop of Rome and the head of the Roman Catholic Church from 2005. Prior to his election as pope, Benedict led a distinguished career… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”